The Cage (in progress) - Part One (Caged) - Chapter One by David Golledge

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Like so many things... He realized they could no longer assume any knowledge of the condition of the world they were returning to. Certain assumptions he knew they could rely on but they were few, and the more he watched the fewer they became.

They crossed the Equator and headed further North, pushing deep into the European Heartlands. To his left Burgess watched a flurry of clouds, spinning in constant agitation, glance off the coast of Catalonia. This far North? He wondered how much damage the hurricane was causing in Barcelona, noticed suddenly how profoundly quiet it was up here. He imagined the devastation at ground level, the buildings, transports, citizens, spun into one crazy chaotic maelstrom. The clouds spun hypnotically, their pure whiteness disguising their dark heart. And there are we, he thought absently.

He raised his hand to the window, rested his fingertips against the cold glastic, seeming to reach out to the spinning planet below. Terra, he thought, with both an incredulity and a relief that surprised him.

Home.

He imagined their return. The people of Terra knew they were there in the sky and tomorrow they would descend from their orbit and would arrive. They would be celebrities, stars. Famous, albeit for only a short while, but famous nonetheless. They would meet the great and the good, would be wined and dined, be welcomed with open arms. They would have the entire world's attention for a while.

He replayed their departure, their launch into the deep that was supposed to be one way, and he smiled to himself at the irony. That was then he told himself, we have changed. And Terra? How will that have changed? Again, he felt the unease rise, wished he could banish the misgivings which seemed to flutter constantly in his guts.

They sent us out into the deep forever, to float aimlessly in space until the end of our days. Why should they welcome us? Because we're not as we were. Because They found us, saved us, turned us around. I miss them, he admitted to himself. I miss their serenity, their peace. I miss their world with it's deep red skies and singing forests. His memories seemed to have a direct connection with his heart, they tugged on it with such strength.

He was still lost in contemplation and memory when his partner came to stand by his side and lightly tapped his opposite shoulder. He started to look to where the hand had touched, realised what was happening, turned away from the touch and his eyes came to rest on her face.

"Hey!" She said brightly.

"Hey", he replied with less enthusiasm.

"I can't believe it. I mean we've been preparing for this for months but now it's here...". She looked out, shaking her head. "I mean, I just can't believe it". Jessica Carmichael smiled to herself, apparently amused by her complete lack of sufficient expression.

He smiled at her, amazed at the apparent knowledge of him Jessica seemed to have in her possession. Although they had been lovers for a very short time sometimes it seemed to Phil that she knew him better than he knew himself.

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